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Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Terra Prime”


<i>Star Trek: Enterprise</i> Rewatch: “Terra Prime”

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Rereads and Rewatches Star Trek: Enterprise

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Terra Prime”


Published on January 22, 2024

Image: CBS
Screenshot of T'Pol holding a baby in Star Trek: Enterprise, "Terra Prime"
Image: CBS

“Terra Prime”
Written by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and André Bormanis and Manny Coto
Directed by Marvin V. Rush
Season 4, Episode 21
Production episode 097
Original air date: May 13, 2005
Date: January 22, 2155

Captain’s star log. After a summary of “Demons,” we get more of Paxton’s speechifying about the purity of humanity and the desire to get rid of alien influence. As an example of the horrible future that awaits them, he shows an image of the human/Vulcan hybrid baby. Because nothing says “humanity is doomed” like a cute little pointed-eared baby. Sure.

Sato is unable to jam the signal and unable to get through to Starfleet Command. Paxton has aimed the verteron array at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco. If all the aliens aren’t out of the solar system in twenty-four hours, he’ll fire on Starfleet HQ.

Enterprise returns to Earth after Paxton takes a potshot at the ship with the array.

Samuels meets with Soval and Andorian Ambassador Thoris. Apparently there are Terra Prime demonstrations outside both the Vulcan and Andorian embassies. Thoris wants to know why they haven’t left Earth yet.

Samuels travels to Enterprise. Their options are limited. Paxton has jiggered the array so that destroying it will also wipe out the Utopia colony. Plus destroying the array will set back the Mars terraforming project and also endanger the colony. Samuels wants Archer to destroy it anyhow—the greater good and all that—but Archer recommends taking a small tactical team to try to extract Tucker and T’Pol and the baby and stop Paxton. If it doesn’t work, then Enterprise will go ahead and fire on the array.

Screenshot from Star Trek: Enterprise, "Terra Prime"
Image: CBS

Paxton wants Tucker to refine the array. He just wants to destroy Starfleet HQ—as he says, he needs a scalpel, not a bludgeon. Right now, the array will wipe out half of San Francisco along with Starfleet. Paxton also lets Tucker and T’Pol meet their daughter, and T’Pol gets to spend time with her—but at gunpoint, as Paxton threatens T’Pol and the baby’s lives if Tucker doesn’t do as Paxton wants.

Paxton explains how he got Tucker and T’Pol’s genetic material: from the frozen samples that are on board Enterprise, making it clear that at least one person on Enterprise’s crew is a Terra Prime supporter.

While he works, Tucker talks with Greaves. Tucker didn’t like Vulcans all that much for a long time, but once he got to know some actual Vulcans, he changed his tune. Greaves admits that he’s never met any Vulcans, but he also blames them for the billions who died in World War III. When Tucker reminds him that first contact was after the war, Greaves reminds him that Earth was under observation by the Vulcans during the war. They could’ve stepped in and prevented it, but didn’t.

Reed meets with Harris, who provides intelligence about Mars that is useful: if they fly just ten meters above the surface, the sensors can’t detect them, as they’re still calibrated for the thinner atmosphere Mars had before terraforming began. But they’ll have to get to Mars first; Reed assures Harris that they have that in hand.

Tucker sabotages the array instead of improving it, because of course he does.

Mayweather flies Enterprise toward Mars while hiding in a comet, and then uses that comet to hide the shuttlepod. Before they take off, Gannet reveals to Mayweather that she’s not a Terra Prime spy, she’s a Starfleet Intelligence spy. But she hasn’t revealed herself because she still hasn’t found the actual Terra Prime spy on board. Mayweather doesn’t entirely believe her, and leaves her in the brig.

Screenshot from Star Trek: Enterprise, "Terra Prime"
Image: CBS

Tucker manages to escape captivity around the same time that a strike team that includes Archer, Reed, Mayweather, and Phlox (the latter because of the baby) invades the mining facility. When Archer arrives in the main control room, right when Paxton’s deadline hits, he contacts Sato, who was left in charge, and tells her to stand down, as they’ve taken over. Sato is grateful, as she was under significant pressure from Samuels to destroy the array.

Then a firefight ensues when Greaves fires on Tucker when Archer sends him to turn off the array. Reed shoots Greaves, Paxton shoots Reed, and so on. It finally ends with a window breaking, and Paxton setting the array to fire. However, Tucker’s sabotage worked: instead of Starfleet HQ, it fires semi-harmlessly into the San Francisco Bay near the Golden Gate Bridge. (I say “semi-harmlessly” because I’m fairly certain some marine life did not get through that unscathed…)

The rescue almost didn’t get pulled off due to sabotage of the shuttlepod, which Mayweather discovers. At first they think that Kelby is responsible, but soon they trace it to Ensign Masaro, who shoots himself in the head rather than answer for his crimes.

The halfbreed baby, whom Tucker and T’Pol name Elizabeth after Tucker’s sister who was killed in the Xindi attack, does not survive, though Phlox’s autopsy determines that the cause is a flaw in Paxton’s cloning procedure and that Elizabeth would’ve survived if he hadn’t screwed that up, which means that future halfbreeds are definitely possible (which we already kinda knew…).

The conference to negotiate the formation of the Coalition of Planets is back on, Mayweather and Gannet have kissed and made up, and the delegates to the conference all agree to attend Elizabeth’s funeral.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently the verteron array is being used to divert comets that strike the surface of Mars to the poles to aid in the ongoing terraforming of the red planet.

Screenshot from Star Trek: Enterprise, "Terra Prime"
Image: CBS

The gazelle speech. Archer gives a semi-rousing speech to the delegates to the conference reminding everyone how far humanity has come in the last century, from wondering if they were alone in the universe to starting the process of a major interplanetary alliance. It’s a bit better than the speech for which this rewatch section is named, I’ll give him that…

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol immediately starts to take care of Elizabeth from the moment Paxton locks her in a room with her.

Florida Man. Florida Man Saves The Day With Sabotage!

Optimism, Captain! Phlox admits to Archer that he originally took the assignment to Enterprise as a diversion, something to allow him to get away from the complications of family (which are way more complicated on Denobula Triaxa) for a few months. He never anticipated finding a new family, and he takes Elizabeth’s death particularly hard (as does everyone else).

Ambassador Pointy. Soval is, notably, the first person to stand and applaud Archer after his speech to the delegates.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. After being informed by a tearful Tucker that Elizabeth could have survived with a better cloning procedure, T’Pol moves to hold his hand, leaving hope for the two of them in the future…

I’ve got faith…

“Hello. I’m your mother. You’re going to need a name. We should discuss that with your father.”

–T’Pol introducing herself to Elizabeth, being at once sentimental, methodical, and logical.

Welcome aboard. Back from “Demons” are Harry Groener as Samuels, Peter Weller as Paxton, Eric Pierpoint as Samuels, Peter Mensah as Greaves, Adam Clark as Josiah, and Johanna Watts as Gannet. Back from “In a Mirror Darkly, Part II” are Gary Graham as Soval and Derek Magyar as Kelby. In addition, Joel Swetow makes his third appearance as an alien on Trek as Thoris, having previously played a Cardassian gul in DS9’s “Emissary” and a Yridian freighter captain in TNG’s “Firstborn.” Josh Holt plays Masaro.

Screenshot from Star Trek: Enterprise "Terra Prime"
Image: CBS

Trivial matters: Strictly speaking, this marks the final real appearance of everyone in it, as the only ones we see again in the next episode are holodeck re-creations, and none of them have appeared again in any Trek production after that (at least not so far).

Though both had recurring roles on Enterprise (and both made guest appearances on prior Treks), this is the first time both Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint have appeared in the same episode. The two were the leads on the tragically short-lived Alien Nation TV series.

This is also the final episode of Trek to be scored by Jay Chattaway, who used many of the same musicians as on the first Trek episode he scored, TNG’s “Tin Man,” which also guest-starred Harry Groener. Chattaway, who is now in his 70s, appears to have retired. The flute theme he created for TNG’s “The Inner Light” has continued to be a music cue on Picard.

An alternate history where Paxton’s movement was successful and Earth became isolationist in 2155 was explored by William Leisner in the short novel A Less Perfect Union in Myriad Universes: Infinity’s Prism.

The characters of Samuels, Soval, and Harris all appear in several post-finale Enterprise novels. Samuels is established as being the Prime Minister of Earth, a position he would retain through the Earth-Romulan War, and appears in The Good that Men Do and Kobayashi Maru by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin and The Romulan War duology by Martin. Soval continues his role as Vulcan ambassador in those same novels, as well as in regular rewatch commenter Christopher L. Bennett’s Rise of the Federation series. Harris appears in several of Bennett’s RotF books as well, continuing his work with Section 31.

Shran was originally supposed to play the role played instead by Joel Swetow, but they decided they wanted to use him for the finale instead. Why he couldn’t appear in both episodes is unclear.

T'Pol and Reed in a screenshot from Star Trek: Enterprise, "Terra Prime"
Image: CBS

It’s been a long road… “The final frontier begins in this hall.” This is a surprising letdown after a very promising first part. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is that Terra Prime’s actual plan was completely unconvincing to me. I mean, seriously, if you’re trying to effect permanent change to make Earth pure again, quite possibly the worst way to go about it is to engage in terrorist activities and trying to use a very cute baby as the face of evil.

Seriously, I found myself laughing out loud when Paxton finishes his Evil Speech of Evil by gravely saying that this is what the future will be and he shows us, um, a cute kid. Yeah, she’s got pointed ears, but that’s not a particularly big change. The whole thing might’ve worked better with a human/Andorian hybrid with antennae and blue skin or a human/Tellarite hybrid with porcine features or something that really looked like a halfbreed. But Elizabeth just looks like a cute baby with funky ears, and the reason why I’m emphasizing the cute is that most people’s reactions to a helpless and adorable little baby is to be protective and want to save it, not think that’s it’s the face of evil. (Of course, the reason why it’s a human/Vulcan hybrid is so we can have Maximum Tucker/T’Pol Angst, which is only not the feeblest development of their relationship by virtue of the existence of the endless “Vulcan neuro-pressure” scenes in season three…)

And then Paxton threatens, not an alien embassy, but Starfleet Headquarters, which is mostly full of humans. And also indirectly threatens the Mars colony, which is also full of humans.

But then it wouldn’t make for exciting enough television, I guess, to have Terra Prime politicians getting themselves elected to the government, have Terra Prime-sympathetic journalists (they almost went there with Gannet, but made her a spy instead, which, um, okay) pushing their agenda, and all the other things that would actually have a chance of working.

There are parts of the episode that work nicely. I especially like Greaves’s justification for his membership in Terra Prime: the Vulcans sat by and watched as World War III raged. That’s a brilliant bit of writing there, because you can absolutely see where Greaves is coming from. But it’s just one piece of dialogue swimming upstream against Peter Weller snarling and a big gun threatening Earth. Paxton should’ve been Joe McCarthy or Donald Trump, and instead he’s a Bond villain. Snore.

Also having Harris and the proto-Section 31 in this two-parter is a complete waste, yet another gratuitous use of the worst thing ever to happen to Star Trek as a franchise.

Archer gets a Mulligan on the gazelle speech, and it almost works. It’s certainly more hopeful and impressive than what he said at the top of season two, but it’s still in the bottom tier of Captain Speeches in Trek history.

Still and all, this would’ve made a nice series finale, with the moving toward an alliance, with the victory of unity over prejudice, with Tucker’s sad declaration that future human/Vulcan hybrids should be just fine, and with Phlox’s happier declaration that he found a new family on the NX-01.

But we get one more. Alas.

Warp factor rating: 6

About the Author

Keith R.A. DeCandido


Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about popular culture for this site since 2011, primarily but not exclusively writing about Star Trek and screen adaptations of superhero comics. He is also the author of more than 60 novels, more than 100 short stories, and around 50 comic books, both in a variety of licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as in worlds of his own creation. Read his blog, follow him on Facebook, The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and Blue Sky, and follow him on YouTube and Patreon.
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